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From 0 to 60: The Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is one of the most popular chronographs far and wide. Stainless steel models and rare vintage editions have recorded excellent value increases. Collectors and investors thus turn to the Daytona as a profitable investment.

By Chrono24

An Iconic Chronograph

Swiss manufacturer Rolex developed the Cosmograph Daytona specially for motorsport in 1963. These popular chronographs were fittingly named after the famous racetrack in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Virtually all Cosmograph Daytona models enjoy the same popularity. In fact, this chronograph is among the most popular and bestselling Rolex watches on Chrono24, bumping shoulders with the likes of the Datejust, Submariner, and GMT-Master. High demand increased the value of pre-owned and new watches exponentially in the past, and you'll likely be waiting several years to get your hands on a current reference from a brick-and-mortar store.

The Rolex Daytona is available in stainless steel, gold, platinum, or as a two-tone model that combines stainless steel and gold. Insiders will tell you that two-tone editions are the most affordable entry point into the Daytona world. By contrast, stainless steel models are extremely popular and, therefore, often sell for well above their official list prices. While less coveted, gold and platinum Daytonas are the most expensive new versions due to their material value and boast perhaps the best value for money.

Rolex released five new models to celebrate the Daytona's 60th anniversary in 2023. All timepieces use the new in-house caliber 4131 boasting Rolex's patented Chronergy escapement. Thanks to some subtle changes to the Daytona's appearance, the new models are more compact and offer a greater sporty-elegant flair. What's more, Rolex decided to give one of the platinum models a see-through case back, a first for the series.

Practically all Daytonas perform very well financially. Between 2020 and 2022, the value of some references skyrocketed. Like many other Rolex models and luxury watches from other manufacturers, prices have fallen significantly since spring 2022. The good news: this is a great time to find offers at comparatively more affordable prices.

Reasons to Buy a Rolex Daytona

  • Many references are a stable investment
  • In-house caliber 4131 with a Chronergy escapement
  • A legendary chronograph with widespread brand recognition
  • Rare vintage models that make fantastic investments
  • New in 2023: Platinum Daytona with a display case back
6:51
Things to Know Before Buying a Rolex Daytona in 2023 | Chrono24

Price Overview: Rolex Daytona

Reference number Price (approx.) Material, bezel, dial
116595RBOW 600,000 USD Rose gold, sapphire, black
6239 300,000 USD Stainless steel, stainless steel, panda/exotic
116506 145,000 USD Platinum, ceramic, ice blue
116508 114,000 USD Yellow gold, yellow gold, green
6263 121,000 USD Stainless steel, Bakelite, reverse panda
126506 75,000 USD (list price) Platinum, ceramic, ice blue
16520 53,500 USD Stainless steel, stainless steel, white
116518LN 50,000 USD Yellow gold, ceramic, black
116519LN 45,000 USD White gold, ceramic, gray
116515LN 48,000 USD Rose gold, ceramic, chocolate brown
116520 38,000 USD Stainless steel, stainless steel, black
116520 36,000 USD Stainless steel, stainless steel, white
116500LN 33,000 USD Stainless steel, ceramic, black
116503 26,500 USD Stainless steel and yellow gold, yellow gold, white
126500LN 15,100 USD (list price) Stainless steel, ceramic, white

How much does a Rolex Daytona cost?

If you're interested in a two-tone Rolex Daytona in stainless steel and yellow gold (ref. 116503), expect to pay around 26,500 USD for a new model. A more popular model, and therefore more expensive, is the stainless steel ref. 116520, which comes in at about 36,000 USD. Prices for a yellow gold Daytona, such as the ref. 116518LN, start just north of 50,000 USD. Among Rolex's most-desired pieces is the platinum Daytona model with an ice-blue dial (ref. 116506), which you can buy for around 145,000 USD. However, no other Daytona holds a candle to the yellow gold Rainbow models (e.g., ref. 116595RBOW). At the time of writing in April 2023, one of these watches would set you back at least 600,000 USD. Even though these prices seem high, they have actually come down a lot since spring of 2022. The value of the rainbow reference mentioned above decreased by 25%.

Vintage models have been steadily increasing in value over the last several years. The ref. 6263 for example, which features a Bakelite bezel, changes hands for no less than 120,000 USD. The Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239 is also worth noting. With their unique exotic dials, these watches can sell for anywhere between 50,000 USD and 300,000 USD, depending on the timepiece's condition and accessories.

Highs and Lows: Ref. 116500LN

Introduced in 2016, the stainless steel ref. 116500LN can be recognized by its black ceramic bezel, Oyster bracelet, and black or white dial. In April 2023, the white dial version was being traded for around 36,000 USD in mint condition. Two years earlier, Rolex fans were willing to part with up to 56,000 USD for this timepiece. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops, especially considering this version was discontinued in 2023.


Prices for Newer Daytona Models

The demand for pre-owned Daytona models, like the ref. 116520, remains strong. The ref. 116520 was introduced at the turn of the millennium and was the first Rolex chronograph to feature the in-house caliber 4130. Up until then, Rolex had relied on modified movements from other manufacturers like Zenith or Valjoux. While the white dial version costs around 27,500 USD as of April 2023, it was selling for 36,000 USD just one year earlier. If you'd prefer the black dial, expect prices to come in around 26,000 USD.

Never-worn pieces are rare since this model is no longer in production and, thus, demand a higher price of 38,000 USD for the black dial variant and 36,000 USD for the model with the white dial. All in all, the 116520 costs around 20% less in 2023 than it did a year earlier.

The Cosmograph Daytona ref. 16520 is powered by a heavily modified Zenith El Primero movement and costs around 36,000 USD with a white dial. The black dial version demands around 2,000 USD more. Both watches are only marginally cheaper than they were in spring 2022.


Gold or platinum Daytona?

At the time of writing in April 2023, a new Rolex Daytona reference 116508 in 18-karat yellow gold with a gold bezel and green dial cost about 114,000 USD. For comparison, this timepiece cost around 148,000 USD in April 2022. Despite this recent value depreciation, the overall performance of this reference is wholly positive. In spring 2020, it cost a "mere" 45,000 USD.

Less popular versions of this reference, which have diamond indices, cost about 92,000 USD in mint condition. This makes them significantly less expensive than the Daytona model featuring a green dial, despite the fact that they are outfitted with diamonds.

Gold Daytonas on Oysterflex bracelets – a bracelet made of thin metal inserts covered in elastomer – come with the added benefits of a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel and a lower price tag. These gold chronographs (ref. 116515LN) sell for around 47,000 USD in mint condition. In April 2022, you would have needed an extra 23,000 USD.

This price range, that is to say around the 47,000 USD mark, is also home to the Rolex Daytona Chocolate ref. 116515LN, which is named after its chocolate brown dial.

Platinum and Colorful Daytonas

A highlight within the Rolex Daytona collection is the platinum reference 116506 with an ice blue dial and chestnut brown Cerachrom bezel. Prices for new timepieces sit around 144,000 USD – that's around 74,000 USD less than in April 2022. Pre-owned copies change hands for close to 130,000 USD. Again, despite the unfavorable developments over the last year, this reference has still appreciated greatly from the 74,000 USD it cost in 2020.

Another exquisite model is the Rolex Rainbow ref. 116595RBOW. This limited-edition gold timepiece premiered in 2018 and is an extremely rare sight on the market. Its main feature is the rainbow of baguette-cut sapphires that adorn its bezel and dial. If that wasn't enough, Rolex also decorates the case with brilliant-cut diamonds. New, the Rolex Rainbow requires an investment of some 600,000 USD.


60th Anniversary Daytona Models in 2023

Rolex took the opportunity at Watches and Wonders 2023 to introduce five new Daytona models to celebrate the collection's 60th anniversary. You can choose between stainless steel with a ceramic bezel, Rolesor with a yellow gold bezel, yellow gold with ceramic bezel, Everose gold and an Everose gold bezel, and a platinum model with a ceramic bezel. The platinum model is particular interesting, as it features a sapphire crystal case back that allows you to watch the caliber at work. No other Daytona model offers this design feature.

Another novelty comes in the form of the new caliber 4131. This movement is an evolution of the 4130, which boasts a column wheel and vertical clutch. The 4131 takes these innovations a step further and adds Rolex's proprietary Chronergy escapement to the mix. This escapement is made of a nickel-phosphorus alloy, a material combination that offers strong magnetic resistance. The 72-hour power reserve remains the same.

Rolex also made minor adjustments to the Daytona's appearance. The 40-mm case was tweaked and now has a more balanced shape. The hour markers are ever so slightly slimmer, while the subdials were toned down. In addition, the ceramic bezel on the 2023 Daytona is surrounded by a metal ring, giving the watch a more pared-back look. As we've come to expect from Rolex, all the changes were extremely subtle; you won't have any difficulty recognizing their Daytona DNA.

At the time of writing in April 2023, there were no listings for the new releases on Chrono24. The official retail prices are as follows:

Rolex Daytona List Prices 2023

Reference number List price Features
126500LN 15,100 USD Stainless steel with ceramic bezel
126503 19,500 USD Rolesor with yellow gold bezel
126518LN 30,600 USD Yellow gold with ceramic bezel
126505 42,500 USD Everose gold with Everose gold bezel
126506 75,000 USD Platinum with ceramic bezel


Prices for Popular Vintage Daytonas

Vintage Daytonas are often much more expensive than their modern counterparts. This is in part due to the fact that models from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s are extremely difficult to find today. What's more, select editions, such as the Paul Newman Daytona, come with unique stories that make them particularly interesting to collectors.

The main feature of the Paul Newman Daytona is its multicolored "exotic dial" with a contrasting minute track. Its subdials also feature unique Art Deco numerals. Beyond its exotic dial, this model is no different from the standard Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6239. Watches with an exotic dial were slow sellers when they first debuted, so Rolex only produced them in limited quantities. Today, the Paul Newman Daytona is one of the most coveted vintage watches of all time, and prices north of 200,000 USD are the norm. In 2017, Paul Newman's personal Daytona – a gift from his wife Joanne Woodward – sold at auction for the record price of 17.75 million USD, making it the most expensive Rolex of all time.

You can purchase a "normal" Paul Newman Daytona for around 220,000 USD. That being said, it's not uncommon to see prices fluctuate up to and beyond 330,000 USD. If you can do without the special multicolor dial design, you will find the ref. 6239 costs as little as 53,000 USD, or perhaps even less if you're lucky.

Cosmographs with the reference numbers 6241 and 6240 are also worth taking a look at. The former is comparable to the ref. 6239 but has a Bakelite, or plastic, bezel. Set aside at least 257,000 USD for this rare timepiece. The 6239 has retained its value well in recent years.

The ref. 6240 is even rarer and was the first water-resistant Daytona thanks to its screw-down push-pieces. Furthermore, it was the first model to have the word "Oyster" stamped on its dial. Like the ref. 6241, the 6240 has a Bakelite bezel and was manufactured in the 1960s. Expect to pay around 160,000 USD for the Cosmograph ref. 6240 with a black dial. The value of this model is also stable.

The ref. 6240 is also available with a silver dial and is a much more affordable option. It changes hands for around 116,000 USD.

How much does a Pre-Daytona cost?

"Pre-Daytona" vintage watches are highly coveted among collectors and are quite difficult to find. This is because these timepieces were produced before 1963 and only in relatively limited numbers. Even though Rolex first trademarked the name "Cosmograph" in the early 1950s, the dials of Pre-Daytonas only feature the word "Chronograph."

However, these watches never became a real hit since other manufacturers had already made a name for themselves producing chronographs, including Heuer. Moreover, in a rare move, Rolex opted to go with a caliber from a third party instead of their own. Gold editions with the reference number 6234 can break 100,000 USD today. Prices for the stainless steel versions fall between 30,000 and 54,000 USD.


A Racing Chronograph

Rolex engineers initially designed the Daytona with race car drivers in mind. The chronograph function of this tool watch can measure time periods of up to 12 hours. Daytonas from the 1960s are powered by the manual Valjoux caliber 72. Production of these hand-wound watches ended in 1976 when Rolex introduced the first automatic Daytonas. The Swiss manufacturer announced further improvements to their chronographs at Baselworld 1988, including automatic chronographs with the caliber 4030. This movement is based on the Zenith El Primero, which ticks at 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph).

However, Rolex's watchmakers disliked the El Primero's higher frequency of 5 Hz and its date display. As a result, they completely reworked the Zenith caliber, with their design engineers ultimately rebuilding almost half of the movement's components. For example, they lowered the balance frequency to 28,000 vph and replaced the conventional balance spring with the famous Breguet overcoil. Rolex also implemented their regulation system with four Microstella nuts, which are located on the inner side of the now larger balance wheel. This is unlike most standard movements that come with a regulator.


In-house Calibers 4130 and 4131

Rolex's first chronograph caliber, the 4130, made its debut inside a gold version of the Daytona in 2000. This movement is 30.5 mm in diameter and 6.5 mm thick. It features 44 ruby jewel bearings, and its balance wheel oscillates at 28,800 vph. Outfitted with a stop-seconds mechanism, the small seconds display's hand comes to a halt whenever the time is being set. The movement has an impressive power reserve of 72 hours when the chronograph is off and 66 hours when it's on. KIF Parechoc's KIF shock protection system protects the balance and escape wheels against shocks and jolts. Finally, as of 2005, magnetic fields have nothing on the balance thanks to Rolex's patented Parachrom hairspring.

In 2023, Rolex introduced the caliber 4131 with that year's new Daytona models. This new movement boasts the brand's patented Chronergy escapement, which is made of a nickel-phosphorous alloy to increase magnetic resistance.


Cosmograph or Daytona?

When looking at the history of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, you'll find numerous explanations for how it got its name. Some sources claim that "Cosmograph" comes from "cosmography" and was already being used to describe watches with a calendar function and moon phase display as far back as the 1950s. Cosmography was the precursor to modern geography and dealt with the study of the universe and Earth – a.k.a. the cosmos. Whatever the case, the word "Cosmograph" appears on the dial of every Rolex chronograph today.

However, this wasn't always the case. In the early days after its 1963 release, the Cosmograph Daytona was available with a number of different dials. Some only featured the "Rolex" brand name, while others came with the "Cosmograph" or "Cosmograph Daytona" inscription.

There's no doubt about where the second part of the name comes from. Its origin is the famed Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida – thus demonstrating the model's close links to the world of motorsport. Rolex has been the official timekeeper and partner of the "24 Hours of Daytona" race since 1962. In fact, the winner still receives a Rolex Daytona with an engraved case back as a prize to this day.